“Home Again” exists in a weird musical space. To this day, you don’t hear many songs by men, about the platonic relationships between men. Men expressing feelings towards other men (unless they are related by blood or are sexual in nature) is still pretty taboo–so taboo that I even started a podcast talking about it (timely plug!) In order to fully appreciate “Home Again”, though, you probably should at least know the backstory of the group that recorded it as well as the backstory of the men who wrote and produced it.
Sometimes, New Edition feels like Black America’s longest-running reality show (well, at least second to The Jacksons, who have largely chilled out over the past 5-6 years). Formed in Boston in 1978, this groundbreaking vocal group has split up, reformed, dropped members, gained members, and gone through more shit than a little bit. They are currently on hiatus after vocalists Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill allegedly copyrighted the group’s name without the knowledge of the other four members, but recent interviews suggest that there may be a reconciliation in the near future. “Home Again” was the title track from their 1996 album, the only album to feature all six current and former members (Tresvant, Gill, Bobby Brown, Ronnie DeVoe, Mike Bivins and Ricky Bell). Over the course of the previous eight years, the members had split into four separate acts and scored a total of nine Gold or Platinum albums. Their individual successes were an indicator that Home Again, the album, would be wildly successful. And it was–the album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album charts and sold over two million copies. But the group didn’t even last a full year into their reunion; squabbles tore them apart by spring 1997. “Home Again” is a poignant reminder of the emotional investments required to keep six people together, no matter how much history they share. It smartly draws direct lyrical parallels to an earlier New Edition classic, 1988’s “Can You Stand The Rain”, a song about keeping a romantic relationship together when times are hard. Either type of relationships can be as difficult to maintain as the other.
Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis know a thing or two about staying together and shared history. The two have been friends since childhood, going back nearly five decades. They were schoolmates in Minneapolis, they joined The Time as bassist and keyboardist, and they have been a production force to be reckoned with since they scored their first hits in late 1982. They have never separated or broken up or even appeared to have had a public cross word to say about one another (although The Time has split up and reformed on at least three separate occasions). Who better to write a song about brotherhood than these two (and it’s not the only song they’ve written that’s covered the topic, either).
Ultimately, what makes “Home Again” special is that there is very real emotion behind the lyrics and the vocals. I hope that the six men that recorded it can sit in a room soon, work their differences out, and bring this kind of love back to their fans.